The award-winning stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel is in its final weeks in the West End, doubtless making plenty of money for the National Theatre, where it originated in 2012.
Christopher Boone (Sam Newton) is a fifteen year old boy on the autism spectrum, a maths genius who finds it hard to function with the chat and metaphors of daily life.
In our glimpse into Christopher’s world, we see and hear how overwhelming everyday activities are to him (act two’s train and tube journey’s are especially evocative).
His father (Stuart Laing) struggles to cope with his clever and challenging child, sometimes overboiling with frustration he instantly regrets. His decision to tell a catastrophic lie leads to the events which close the first half (as sounds, lights, collapsing numbers and falling letters contribute to the boy’s reaction to a shock), and into the adventures of act two.
Newton, adaptor Simon Stephens and director Marianne Elliott create a powerful and believable depiction of the complexities of autism, with a cohesive balance between the comic perception of everyday statements (“the apple of his eye”) and the pathos of emotional attachments (father, mother, neighbour’s dog. pet rat, new puppy).
The supporting cast are uniformly good – Emma Beattie as the mother who couldn’t cope stood out, but I must note them all. (Sadly the lack of a programme leads me to struggle a bit to assign names to roles).
Bunny Christie’s set is a box which displays material drawn on the floor and generated text and adverts, and utilises hidden doors and storage space very well, plus an inspired use of the front of the stage as a platform on the London Underground.
The technical wizardry on display has rightly gained plaudits but ultimately this is a show with heart, starting with that curious incident of the dog and the garden fork, and ending with a post-curtain call maths equation.